Online marketing has become so compartmentalized that individual strategies are mere cogs in a giant machine. Unless each cog is performing its specialized role in conjunction with the other, interdependent parts, the greater machine cannot function.
In this analogy, that machine is your generation of new customers and new revenue. You can only be successful in generating new customers and revenue if each piece of that machine is operating efficiently. Take away any one piece, and the entire operation becomes useless.
Search engine optimization (SEO) gets a lot of hype, and for good reason—it’s a highly valuable and cost-efficient marketing strategy—but it often gets more credit than it deserves. Many business owners and some SEO agencies foster a misconception that engaging in SEO can actively increase your sales and revenue; this is true in many cases, but it is not a reliable truth.
Let’s examine the real purpose of SEO. It is not designed to directly generate revenue; instead, its specialist function is merely to generate web traffic to a specific area (usually a landing page or contact page on your website). Increased traffic can then lead to increased sales and revenue, but only if that traffic is predisposed to pay for your products and services; this is the conversion stage.
Part of the burden of conversion comes in targeting the proper audience. If you optimize for search terms unrelated to your industry, or if your meta descriptions attract demographics you aren’t specifically catering to, you may lose out on the majority of your potential conversions and wind up with a broken marketing machine.
However, the larger burden of conversion comes in how you’ve set up the conversion area of your site. In this way, your call-to-action becomes a final gate that is needed to convert raw web traffic into meaningful conversions and sales. Without a successful conversion gate in place, all that traffic you’ve generated with SEO will ultimately be useless.
Knowing this, you’ll want to optimize your website to generate as many conversions as possible. With a solid SEO strategy in place generating hundreds of people to your brand, your only remaining step is to set up the best possible opportunity for conversion.
Establish a Destination
Your first job will be to establish a final destination for your inbound traffic. For example, it could be your “contact us” page, or a separate landing page designed specifically to convert visitors. Whatever you choose, make sure all your pages eventually point to that final destination. You could also include some kind of callout on every page of your site, such as a banner ad that encourages people to click, so that every page of your site serves as its own final destination.
Create an Obvious Call to Action
The conversion area needs to be obvious. When a user clicks on the page where the conversion site is located, his/her eyes should be immediately drawn to the area. You can do this with careful design, intriguing fonts, distinct coloration, or even obvious visual cues like pointed arrows. It’s also helpful to include powerful action-based words in your copy, as they draw the eye and prime people to take action.
Make It Easy to Convert
Most conversion optimization strategies fall apart when it comes time to get your visitors to actually take action. In theory, the design and placement of the conversion opportunity will lead to more conversions, but if the process is difficult, it will alienate otherwise promising opportunities. If you’re collecting information via a form, limit the number of fields you make your users fill out. Make any submission button clear and easy to use. Make your conversion page fast and mobile-friendly. The easier it is to convert, the more people will do so.
Tie the Conversion to a Value
Most people won’t give up anything unless there’s a clear value for them to do so. They won’t pay money for a product unless that product is worth the money. They won’t give up their personal information unless there’s an obvious motivation to do it. Tie some sort of value to the conversion, such as offering free content in exchange for the act of converting.
While some marketing strategies are built on logic and mathematics—give a certain input and see a corresponding, predictable output—this isn’t the case for conversion optimization. It’s more of an art than it is a science, and in order to be successful with it, you’ll need to commit to some level of ongoing maintenance. Try out a new landing page or call-to-action, and take a careful measurement to determine how effective your change was. Then, make another change and repeat the process. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll see a sudden flood of new conversions, but if you make careful, iterative changes, you should have no problem establishing a healthy ongoing conversion optimization campaign.
SEO is a highly effective marketing strategy, but only when you use it for its true, specific purpose; generating traffic to a website. If you want that traffic to do something specific, like give you money or valuable information, you’ll need an interdependent conversion optimization strategy to do so. While all marketing strategies do work together on some level, keeping SEO and conversion optimization as distinct strategies in your head will help you improve your approach to and understanding of both.